MENDERSKI: Quincy delicacies through the eyes of a transplant -- toothpaste, pesticides, seeds

Posted: Feb. 28, 2013 2:37 pm Updated: Apr. 12, 2013 9:15 am

I have been on some strange dates, but never had a gentleman suggest an evening of dentistry until I moved to Quincy.

A friend from St. Louis was visiting last month. He has taken my restaurant vocabulary of hot wings, toasted ravioli and spring salads and infiltrated them with dishes like Cornish hen, wild boar ravioli and kale.

The difference in our diets was confusing, but it didn't stump him as much as the architecture of the Quintero building at 20th and Maine.

"I don't know why you won't let me take you to Quintero," he said as I drove the two of us down Maine Street. "It's obviously one of the nicest places in town."

My friend thought the Quintero building looked like an upscale restaurant filled with those strange dishes I have learned to love. I had never noticed it before. It wasn't until we arrived that we learned it was the office of Dr. Louis Quintero.

I must confess to similar mistakes since I have moved to Quincy.

A couple of months ago, I drove downtown looking for a cup of coffee and parked in front of Keller's near Ninth and Maine. The business had a cozy-looking patio out front, and I thought it might have an equally alluring latte inside.

Imagine my surprise when I took a closer look at the sign. The two leaves I had taken for tea had acorns attached. Mr. George Keller and his sons had been selling seeds and lawn services to Quincy since 1880. Leave it to a newcomer to overlook that.

I thought I had it right when I planned to order a beer at O'Donnell's on Hampshire. The little leprechaun, green awning and trademark O'Something strongly resembled an Irish pub I knew in college.

At second glance, I learned I'm better off not drinking what O'Donnell's has to offer. Too much alcohol is bad, but something from O'Donnell's Termite and Pest Control would almost certainly leave me with a bit more than a fuzzy memory and a headache.

Even my mother fell prey to Quincy's architectural tricks. As she helped me tour apartments in September, she suggested stopping at Bruening's for a snack while we mulled over my options. The bright, warm-colored sign and striped awning had attracted our attention and my stomach growled in anticipation.

Once we took a closer look at the neon sign in the window, we realized it advertised fireplaces and stoves, not adult beverages. My new apartment wouldn't need a fireplace from Bruening's Heating and AC, but my stomach still needed a snack.

We laughed about it, and continued on Broadway to TGI Fridays -- somewhere that we were certain would serve us food.

I haven't lived in my suburban St. Louis hometown of Oakville since leaving for college six years ago. In that time, I have lived in four homes away from home. Once moving beyond Oakville's borders, I learned locals and transplants notice different things about their hometowns.

Locals see what has always been there and transplants see the unique.

The new Dunkin' Donuts that recently opened near my parent's house wouldn't strike an outsider as odd. But ask an Oakville native, and they'll tell you it's the first true bakery and coffee shop the area has had in more than two decades. I noticed that about my hometown just as I imagined a cup of coffee on George Keller's patio, a pint at O'Donnell's and a snack a Bruening's.

And, by the way, while my friend and I did eventually find a meal that taught me two new restaurant terms -- gratin and Gruy"re -- we didn't end up eating at Quintero.


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